7. TIBER ISLAND

[Reading time: 2 minutes]

Can the Tiber river host an island? Of course! The Tiber Island looks like a big boat sailing among the waves of the Roman river for its particular shape. It links the Field of Mars in Rione Sant’Angelo, the heart of Rome, with Trastevere, the most famous area for nightlife. Two bridges, Ponte Fabricio and Ponte Cestio, connect the two different sides with the island. In the past, they were the only way to cross the Tiber river because there weren’t other bridges that we know nowadays. Indeed one of them, Ponte Fabricio, is the oldest and the only original bridge in Rome.

A curiosity: the legend says that Romans threw the body of the most heated Roman king, Tarquinius Superbus (510 BC), into the Tiber where his limbs formed the Tiber Island with dirt and silt accumulated around the body of the king. Lots of terrifying stories were associated with the island where criminals and contagiously ill were condemned.

It was the seat of the ancient temple of Asclepius, the Greek god of health, and it actually houses a hospital…for this reason the island was considered as the place of medicine and healing. In the 3rd century BC, during a terrible plague in the city, the Roman Senate, after consulting the oracle, ordered to build a temple to Asclepius and sent a delegation to Greece to take the statue of the divinity. The delegation travelled by ship and it received a snake which surrounded the ship’s mast and it was seen as a good sign for travellers. While the delegation was coming back homeland, the snake swam onto the island and people believed that it was a sign from Asclepius who wanted his temple to be built on that island.

In Summer the island becomes a cultural centre because it hosts the famous festival called “Isola del Cinema” during the which people can meet actors and directors of movies that are projected.

So what are you waiting for? Be ready to get in the oldest Roman ship made of travertine.

Francesca Errico

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